(USA Today) MARIUPOL, Ukraine – Pro-Russian separatists who have occupied administrative building in the east of the Ukraine for the past two weeks showed no sign of relenting Friday despite amnesty being offered by the Ukrainian government.
"Come out. Your time has passed," Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said at a meeting In the capital of Kiev in reference to separatist militants who have take over buildings in at least eight cities in East Ukraine.
Yatsenyuk said the government has drafted a law promising militants they would face no legal consequences if they leave seized buildings and give up their weapons.
The measure was drafted after diplomats in Geneva on Thursday agreed on a statement in which they called on all sides to stand down in the conflict. Among those agreeing was Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose country has been accused by the United States of providing support to Ukraine militants who are demanding to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
Yet critically, the militants were not party to the agreement and on Friday had not abided by it.
"Lavrov did not sign anything for us, he signed on behalf of the Russian Federation," said Denis Pushilin, head of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.
Militants forced their way into several buildings in Donetsk, an industrial city of about 1 million people in East Ukraine on the border with Russia.
The city a significant population of Russian-speaking ethnic Russians, and it is they who primarily have taken over buildings and are building barricades to prevent Ukraine security forces from driving them out.
Well-armed soldiers in matching uniforms and masks have been assisting the militants. Ukraine and anti-Russia residents of Donetsk say the soldiers are Russian military sent in by Russia President Vladimir Putin to create unrest as an excuse to invade as he did last month in the Ukraine province of Crimea.
On Thursday night, thousands of people who do not want to join Russia held protests in the city. Pushilin says he wants a referendum by May 11 to ask residents whether they want sovereignty.
In Mariupol, an eastern seaport city of some 460,000 people, the city hall has been occupied since Sunday. Militants have surrounded the building with barricades made of tires and bags filled with sand.
The several dozen men holding Mariupol's city hall are demanding a referendum in which people of the region can vote on joining Russia. That is the same tactic used by pro-Russia groups in Crimea who took over buildings with the help of Russian troops.
The referendum was held but and approved, and followed by annexation into Russia by Putin.
"It would be great if Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) took custody of us," said 26-year old Vitaliy Skovronskiy, standing on the city hall's balcony that was turned into a lookout post to watch out in case of police attack.
Police say they have not attempted to take back the building. A so-called "anti-terrorist operation," initiated by Ukrainian government on Monday to retake control of such buildings seems to have been put on hold or has not been successful.
A Ukrainian State Security Service spokeswoman, Maryna Ostapenko said Thursday the operation had not moved forward due to pro-Russian groups – some who she claimed were from the Russian military – using civilians as human shields. Some of these groups have been blocking roads into the cities and dared Ukraine troops to shoot at them.
The troops have not done so, and instead are parked alongside roads.
To keep more Russian military from getting into the country, Ukraine put travel restrictions on male Russian citizens between the ages of 16 and 60 from entering Ukraine.
Since the beginning of the week, some 11,000 Russians were restricted from entering Ukraine, according to State Security Service, with 117 of them were discovered to be previously involved in extremist activities.
Ukraine's prime minister said he expected Russia to immediately remove "diversionist groups" from the east of Ukraine, following the Geneva meeting.
"We in Ukraine can restore order on our own if Russia stops helping the terrorists," Yatsenyuk said.